The University of Maryland football team had no need for a daring two-point conversion or any other dramatic plays in yesterday's home opener. Led by a defense that held North Carolina State to zero yards rushing, the Terrapins capitalized on mistakes in the first half and gave Bobby Ross his first victory as their coach, 23-6, before 34,300 at Byrd Stadium.
Mistakes, including a fumbled punt and five other turnovers, had been costly in close defeats by nationally ranked Penn State and West Virginia, the latter on an unsuccessful two-point conversion pass in the final two minutes. Yesterday, Maryland's only turnover was a third-quarter interception. By that time the Terrapins were leading, 20-0, after using a recovered fumble and an interception to help score 17 points in the opening 3:38 of the second quarter.
Ross, who brought a different style of offense to Maryland after Jerry Claiborne quit to become coach at Kentucky, said it felt "damn good" to beat N.C. State (3-1, 1-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference). "This 'immoral' victory sure feels better than those moral victories," he said.
There was nothing fancy about the way in which the Terrapins won their ACC opener. The offense, which had been pass-heavy the past two weeks, rushed 55 times for 214 yards, including a career-high 111 by tailback Willie Joyner. Quarterback Boomer Esiason passed for 183 yards and one touchdown and Jesse Atkinson kicked three field goals.
Maryland's defense was overpowering.
The line and linebackers stunned State with blitzes and stunts. They forced Wolfpack quarterbacks into two interceptions and sacked them five times. One sack, by defensive ends J.D. Gross and Howard Eubanks in the third quarter, knocked starting quarterback Tol Avery from the game with a slight concussion.
"We sat on them pretty much the whole game," said Eubanks, whose interception in the second quarter led to Maryland's second touchdown. "I don't know if they expected us to come with that much pressure. But Coach Ross had told us to go after the quarterback, and we love to hear that."
Eubanks led a crew of players who threw Ross into the shower after the game. "Coach was a little excited after this one . . . a little hot," Eubanks said. "We had to cool him down some."
Afterward, in his press conference, Ross still was excited. "I'm very proud," he said. "This is an extremely big moment in our football program."
Most of Ross' praise, as expected, went to the defense. "We decided not to be quite as cautious as we had been, to let our guys go some," he said. "That was one of our best games in the secondary in some years. We got excellent pressure from our ends. And even on their completions, our secondary was hitting, forcing them into some drops."
Both offenses started the game poorly, but Maryland's got going and State's never did. "I don't know why it's taking me awhile to get going," said Esiason. "When the quarterback takes awhile, so does the rest of the team."
There were eight punts in the first 11 minutes. State's fourth punt of the first quarter gave the Terrapins the ball at their 20. They drove 80 yards in nine plays for the touchdown, scored by Russell Davis on an eight-yard pass from Esiason.
Esiason, who completed 13 of 26 passes, threw to tight end John Tice for 21 and 14 yards. Joyner, who sat out the West Virginia game with a toe injury, ran off tackle for 20 to the State 26.
The next two running plays stalled and, on third and seven, State's linebackers blitzed. Esiason threw into the end zone to keep from being sacked. But State defensive back D.D. Hoggard interfered with Davis at the 11.
On the first play of the second quarter, Esiason looked at Tice, who was covered by three State players, then threw to Davis who had worked his way back to the middle of the field at the back of the end zone. That gave Maryland a 7-0 lead and Davis his fourth touchdown of the year.
Eubanks' third-down interception, a minute later on State's ensuing possession, led to a one-yard touchdown run by freshman fullback Rick Badanjek and a 14-0 lead, two minutes after the first score.
On the following kickoff, State's Don Wilson muffed the ball in his own end zone, picked it up only to be tackled hard at the 12 by a swarm of Maryland tacklers. He fumbled and Badanjek recovered. Sixty-five seconds later, Atkinson made it 17-0. Atkinson missed one field goal, a 36-yarder, but made a 45-yarder at the end of the half, giving the Terrapins a 20-0 lead.
Mike Lewis' end reverse run for 19 yards set up another Atkinson field goal and a 23-0 lead.
The rest was up to the Terrapin defense and ball control. Joe McIntosh, who had rushed for 100 yards in each of the first three games, gained only 39 yards on eight carries yesterday.
Maryland would have had twice as many sacks if Avery and his replacement, Ron Laraway, hadn't thrown in desperation while falling down. As defensive tackle Gurnest Brown said, "We had a lot of almosts.
"Their quarterback (Avery) wasn't like the first two quarterbacks we faced at Penn State (Todd Blackledge) and West Virgnia (Jeff Hostetler)," said Gross. "When he gets in trouble, he bails out. He wasn't real great at looking for his second receiver."
Laraway was better. He completed five of 10 passes for 74 yards to lead the Wolfpack to their only score, a one-yard tochdown run by Larmount Lawson with less than seven minutes remaining. It was the first rushing touchdown scored against Maryland in 25 quarters, since Oct. 31, 1981, when North Carolina's Ethan Hortan scored on a one-yard run. The two-point conversion attempt failed, as had the Wolfpack running game the entire afternoon.[TABLE OMITTED]lties-yards 8-57 11-105 Time of possession 22:51 37:09 CAPTION: Picture, Russell Davis catches Boomer Eslason's pass in end zone to start Maryland on way to victory over N.C. State. By Richard Darcey -- The Washington PostINDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
RUSHING--N.C. State: Marks 5-5, McIntosh 8-39, Avery 3-minus 35, Lawson 3-8, Laraway 3-minus 17. Maryland: Joyner 26-111, Carter 3-3, Nash 2-8, Badanjek 7-36, D'Addio 5-14, Lewis 1-19. Esiason 6-minus 2, Island 4-25.
PASSING--N.C. State: Avery 11-20-2, 99 yards; Laraway 11-19-0, 124. Maryland: Esiason 13-26-1, 183.
RECEIVING--N.C. State: Foster 4-45, Jenkins 6-71, Marks 2-9, McIntosh 3-20, S. Davis 4-58, D. Davis 1-16, Isom 1-2, Lawson 1-2. Maryland: Tice 3-41, R. Davis 3-42, Fazio 4-43, D'Addio 1-21, Hill 1-28, Emerson 1-8.One (WP photos by Richard Darcey): Russell Davis catches Boomer Esiason's pass in end zone to start Maryland on way to victory over N.C. State. ; Two: Rick Badajek of Maryland carries N.C. State tackler into end zone.